Brashares, author of The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, is about to take the teenage reader by storm. This, her first-ever novel, unabashedly captures the essence of girl power with quirky characters and funky language. Crushing on the boy next door, surviving stepfamily scenes and juggling summer jobs never seemed so intense, traumatic or dramatic.

From parental suicide and first-time sex to divorce, death and plain old disappointment, Brashares tackles intense emotional issues from a young person's perspective. But The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants isn't a how-to guide to surviving the curve balls of the teenage years. It is a peek into the lives of everyday people who have their own personalities, styles, histories and dreams. Love, friendship, commitment and honesty are important elements here, and Brashares combines them all flawlessly.

The story centers on a group of four girlfriends, Tibby, Carmen, Lena and Bridget, whose mothers met at a prenatal aerobics class 15 years ago. On a shopping trip to a thrift store, the girls discover a "magic" pair of jeans -- any pair of pants that can fit perfectly on four unique teenage bodies has to have special powers. As they prepare to go their separate ways for the summer, the girls make a pact to share the jeans even though their travels will take them to far-reaching places -- from Greece to Mexico to California to the discount store down the street.

And of course, as with every good pact, the girls create a set of rules that reflect their individual personalities -- and coincidentally foreshadow many of the issues they will face throughout the summer. A few of those special rules are:

  • You must never wash the pants.
  • You must never double cuff the pants. It's tacky.
  • You must never say the word "phat" while wearing the pants.
  • You must never let a boy take off the pants (although you may take them off yourself in his presence).
  • You must not pick your nose while wearing the pants.
  • You must write your sisters throughout the summer, no matter how much fun you are having without them.
  • You may only possess the pants for the specified length of time before passing them on to one of your sisters. Failure to comply will result in a severe spanking upon reunion.
  • Remember: Pants = love. Love your pals. Love yourself.

As each of the "sisters" takes her turn with the pants, she finds that the summer isn't filled with all the happiness she had hoped it would be: Tibby faces the deaths of both an old and a new friend; Carmen is shocked to find that her father has a new family; Lena causes a neighborhood feud; and Bridget goes too far with her camp counselor. Indeed, the first passing of the pants proves to be bad magic rather than the good omen that the girls had envisioned.

But as the pants -- and the summer -- move on, the girls come to realize that it's not the pants that help them survive their traumas and see them through their joyous moments, but the closeness and comfort of their strong, lasting friendships.

In The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, Brashares creates the types of diverse, dependable, honest friends we all hope to find sometime in our lives. Luckily for these characters, they've found each other in one of the most difficult stages of theirs.

 

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